Curtis and Marclee

Curtis Esquibel of Mercer has been training with Tails of Valor service dog Marclee. Esquibel is an Air Force veteran who has a brain tumor, and a fundraiser for service dog expenses is set for Oct. 10.

MERCER — Neighbors of Curtis Esquibel and area support organizations are rallying to the aid of the 31-year-old veteran living with a brain tumor.

“The response has been unbelievable,” said Amanda Price, who manages Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 519 in Grove City. The VFW post is sponsoring a fundraiser for Esquibel on Oct. 10.

Esquibel, of Mercer, who served in the Air Force for eight years, said he and his mother, Edie Krofcheck, have been amazed by the many people offering help.

“The world needs more good people,” Esquibel said.

Esquibel was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor after he had a seizure in 2014 while stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

The tumor was caused by neurofibromatosis, a disorder of the nervous system.

Esquibel still has seizures even after two brain surgeries at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Some of the tumor remains in the center of his brain. He said further surgery carries the risk of serious complications and could even leave him paralyzed.

Donations of gift baskets and monetary contributions continue to accumulate, said Price, a neighbor of the Esquibel family. That includes assistance from a number of VFW organizations in and around Mercer County.

The benefit will take place at the Stanley Snyder VFW Post 7465, 1470 Brent Road, Springfield Township.

Breakfast will run from 9 a.m. to noon; the all-you-can-eat meal includes ham, sausage, scrambled eggs, pancakes, biscuits with sausage gravy, potatoes, fruit and drinks.

Bingo starts at 1 p.m., and there will be a basket auction and raffles.

Tickets of $12 may be purchased at the door, or in advance at these VFW locations, where donations may be dropped off: VFW Post 7465 in Springfield Township; VFW Post 6385, 432 S. Erie St., Mercer; and VFW Post 519, 220 Blair St., Grove City.

Proceeds will help cover expenses for a service dog that Esquibel hopes to bring home soon, thanks to Tails of Valor, a nonprofit based in Coopersburg, Pa., that trains service dogs for veterans

To determine which dog is best suited to his needs, Esquibel has worked with two dogs – Marclee and Zach — named after fallen service members.

Esquibel lives with his mother, stepfather, Glenn; and younger brother, Miles, who attends Point Park University in Pittsburgh. Esquibel is not allowed to drive.

The dog will help detect seizures and stay by his side; Esquibel looks forward to having a new companion to keep him moving.

The 2008 Mercer High School graduate says he doesn’t doesn’t dwell too much on his brain tumor and how it’s impacted his life.

He takes things one day a time and works hard to have a positive outlook. He keeps busy as an assistant football coach at Mercer High School, bowling, watching dirt racing, and going to church. The family belongs to Mercer United Methodist Church.

“He’s still himself for the most part,” Krofcheck said, citing his post-surgery smile.

The tumor hasn’t grown. Esquibel takes anti-seizure medication. He sometimes struggles with his memory and has to remind himself to get enough rest and take it easy.

When he and his mother realized they’d need help with service dog expenses, Tails of Valor suggested they contact a local VFW.

It wasn’t long before Price started organizing the fundraiser; others jumped in to help.

Any funds left over will go to Tails of Valor, Esquibel said, adding that he’d like to sponsor a service dog in memory of his grandfather, Alfonso Esquibel, who died in 2004.

“He was my best friend and hero,” he said.

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